Sunday, April 19, 2009

Alex Ferguson Believes Arsenal Can Stun Liverpool This Week

Sir Alex Ferguson is backing old adversary Arsene Wenger to put the skids under Liverpool's title challenge this week.

The Manchester United boss hopes Arsenal will help silence arch enemy Rafael Benitez with a win at Anfield on Tuesday.

Fergie was once locked in the same bitter rivalry with Wenger that he now shares with Benitez. But he never felt the same anger towards the Gunners boss and admits he has a healthy respect for the Frenchman.

Sir Alex said: "There is a respect there despite the past. There have been confrontations and that was down to the personalities.

"There was some right old players involved - Vieira, Keane. It went back to McClair and Winterburn and then the penalty kick where they threw the mud at the ball.

"I think Arsene was reluctant to accept his own team's discipline issues but now he does."

Fowler Tips Reds & Torres

Former Liverpool hero Robbie Fowler believes Fernando Torres can establish himself as one of the all-time greats at Anfield.

Torres has endured a somewhat frustrating second season at Anfield due to injury, but has still managed to net 11 goals in 19 Premier League games

Fowler, who scored 183 goals in 396 appearances for Liverpool during two spells at the club, is a big fan of Torres and believes there is more to come from the Spaniard.

"In terms of Fernando Torres he could be up there with the greats of Liverpool ie: Ian Rush," Fowler told Sky Sports News.

"His record has been fantastic since he came to the club.

"He is just a very, very good player and he scores all types of goals which is really crucial to a forward as well, he just doesn't get tap-ins.

"So I can see him being up there with the best of them. I think he has got everything."

Fowler, who currently plies his trade in Australia with North Queensland Fury, also believes Liverpool could end their 19-year wait for a Premier League title this season by pipping Manchester United to the crown.

The Reds are currently one point behind United, but Fowler is confident they can win all their remaining games to bring the title back to Anfield.

"I am really, really hoping that Liverpool win it," added Fowler. "If you had asked me four or five weeks ago I would have said Liverpool would have no chance as Man United were playing well and were six points clear with a game in hand.

"But Liverpool, ever since beating Real Madrid in the Champions League, have been on an unbelievable run and I can't really see them getting beat for the rest of the season."

Liverpool Striker Fernando Torres Facing Busy Summer Of Football

Liverpool’s Spanish striker Fernando Torres looks set to face a busy summer of football with little time for a summer break, after the Merseyside club announced plans to tour Thailand in July.

Torres is already set to play for Spain in the Confederations Cup in South Africa in June and may now have to report back to Liverpool shortly afterwards as the club plan to travel to Asia for a pre-season tour.

Despite current political unrest in the country, the Anfield outfit are reportedly in negotiations to play a series of games in Thailand, according to the Mail on Sunday.

The paper claims that an announcement will be made this week about the tour, which should see the club play the Thailand national team, managed by former Everton midfielder Peter Reid, in Bangkok on July 22.

Liverpool will then move on to Singapore to play another game, four days later, in a tour that should prove, financially, very lucrative for the club.

However, the timing of the trip, which follows the Confederations Cup, means that Torres will have little time to rest during the summer, which may cause anxiety at the club particularly as the striker has endured an injury-plagued season at Anfield.

He has managed only 15 Premier League starts this season, yet has still hit an impressive 11 goals.

Of course, Torres is not the only Liverpool player who this will affect, as the Reds boast several Spanish internationals who are also expected to play in the Confederations Cup.

Pepe Reina, Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arebloa will join Torres in South Africa and may also have to endure very little time off this summer.

Liverpool Legend Kenny Dalglish To Become Rafael Benitez’s Adviser

Kenny Dalglish is reportedly set to return to Anfield to work alongside manager Rafael Benitez in an advisory role, according to the Sunday Mirror.

The British tabloid claims that it was Benitez’s idea to bring Dalglish in and that he will work predominantly in youth development, but will also use his vast experience to advise the Spaniard.

The move is likely to be welcomed by Liverpool fans for whom Dalglish remains a hero on Merseyside.

The Scot was the last manager to win the league for the Reds and was also one of the finest players in the club’s history.

Reports last week had suggested that Newcastle United manager Alan Shearer had wanted to bring in Dalglish at St James’ Park in a similar advisory role. However, it now appears that he will instead move to Anfield.

The 58-year-old spent six years managing Liverpool, winning three league titles and two FA Cups.

He left the club in 1991, before taking over at Blackburn Rovers, who he also guided to Premier League title glory in 1995.

After leaving Ewood Park, Dalglish had spells in charge of Newcastle and Celtic but will no doubt be relishing a return to the game with his former side.

Hibbert: My Mate Gerrard's A Red, But He Wants Everton To Win Today

The two Huyton boys could not have been more excited about winning a local under-10s tournament for Denburn United had it been the World Cup itself.

Almost overawed, they posed next to the trophy and vowed it would be the first of many.

Nine-year-old Steven Gerrard dreamed of captaining Liverpool and winning the European Cup.

His mate Tony Hibbert, a few months his junior, wanted to play for Everton at Wembley.

Hibbert has long since lost count of how many times he has turned on the television to see his friend involved in big matches - whether it be captaining Liverpool in a Champions League final or playing in the World Cup for England.

But today the roles will be reversed. It will be Gerrard watching and Hibbert stepping out of the shadows as his Everton side face their most important game this century, an FA Cup semi-final against the Manchester United 'untouchables' chasing an unprecedented five trophies this season.

'It won't be easy for the Liverpool captain to choose between Manchester United and Everton, but I'm sure Stevie will want me to do well,' said Hibbert.

'We do go a long way back. Our dads are friends and it was no surprise that we played for the same boys' team. I never had any doubt Stevie would make it as a professional, he was that good. Myself? I wasn't so sure, but of course that's what I wanted.'

Given Hibbert's modesty, Gerrard is happy to talk up the consistent Everton defender, who has hardly put a foot wrong in more than 200 games for his club.

'Tony is to Everton what me and Jamie Carragher are to Liverpool,' said Gerrard. 'There is a connection with the fans and it is important for both clubs to have local players coming through. I like nothing better than putting the telly on and if Everton are playing, seeing Tony doing well. He is still a good mate.

'Even at a young age you knew he would play at a really high level. We started in the same team and I thought he was a fantastic player. He was tough as a kid but I think that's the way you get brought up in Huyton, to be a tough tackler and give everything you've got.

'I also know Tony's dad and he has a similar mentality to my dad in the sense that they want you to go out and give everything.

'A lot of players have come out of Huyton. There is a passion for football there. Kids are out on the street playing football every chance they get. There are good amateur teams, too, so you have the chance to play at the weekends and improve yourself.'

Whereas Gerrard joined Liverpool, Hibbert went through the ranks at Everton. He was already at the club on schoolboy terms in 1995 when the 'Dogs of War' team famously beat Manchester United to win the FA Cup with a goal from Paul Rideout.

'Everton were an old-fashioned club then and the buzz around the place was fantastic,' recalled Hibbert. 'I remember the trophy being brought down to the training ground on the first day of pre-season and the atmosphere being electric. The dinner ladies were as excited about winning it as the players.

'They were happy times. The training ground at Bellefield only had about two or three showers when I went there. Most of the players still had to use one of those big tin baths.

'Of course, things have to move on but I'm glad I had those experiences. It has definitely helped me appreciate what Everton are about. The only disappointment about '95 for me was that I missed the final itself. My parents had booked a family holiday in Spain. I don't think they'd predicted Everton might reach the cup final!'

Hibbert is likely to have to stop another famous friend today: Wayne Rooney, who had a scan on a foot problem on Friday.

The pair were Everton team-mates as youngsters before Rooney made his move to Manchester United, despite declaring 'Once a blue, always a blue'.

Unlike many Everton fans, Hibbert bears his pal no ill-will and remains one of the first names on the guest list if Rooney is ever throwing a party.

'The thing I remember was the way Wayne handled the pressure,' recalled Hibbert. 'He was in the public eye from the moment he scored that goal against Arsenal at 16. A lot of people might have changed but he just did not let anything bother him. It was unbelievable really, all these expectations on a kid and he just carried on doing things his way.'

Everton owner Bill Kenwright is fiercely proud of the club's tradition and has organised for 30 of their most cherished ex-players to travel to Wembley to watch the semi-final.

So, Was Allardyce Really Offended By Rafa's Hand Gestures...?

Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce had a drink with Liverpool No 2 Sammy Lee after his side’s 4-0 defeat at Anfield last weekend without mentioning that he had been offended by a gesture from Rafa Benitez.

The conversation over a couple of beers casts doubt over Allardyce’s claim that he was humiliated by Benitez after Fernando Torres scored Liverpool’s second goal.

The Blackburn manager claimed on Friday he had tried to seek out Benitez for an explanation. He said: ‘I was hugely disappointed by those gestures.

I think they were disrespectful and quite humiliating. The feeling was that he had written us off. It was open arms and then a crossover of the arms as if to suggest that was it.’

Benitez insists it was a humorous sign towards his players after they had scored a goal despite ignoring his instruction from the touchline.

A source said: ‘Sam said some pretty strong stuff on Friday and so did Sir Alex Ferguson. But after the game itself, Sam had a long chat with Sammy Lee over a couple of beers but didn’t say anything about any signals.

‘He and Sammy go back a long way and Sammy worked for him at Bolton so it’s surprising that if Sam had a grievance he wouldn’t even mention it.’

Gillett Seeking $400 Million Investment

American George Gillett is seeking a partner willing to invest $400 million into a sporting empire that includes Liverpool soccer club and the Montreal Canadiens NHL team, a newspaper said on Saturday.

The French-language La Presse, citing sources involved with the proposed sale of the Canadiens, said such an investment would enable the financially-pressed businessman to hold on to the teams.

La Presse said Gillett had proposed to several business executives that they invest $400 million and become a junior partner, but had generated little interest so far.

Gillett said last month that he had hired a team of advisors to look at his assets and denied media reports he wanted to sell some of them.

"My family and I regard this possibility as the last resort. We are a lot more interested in some kind of (business) association than in the sale of the Montreal Canadiens or one of our other enterprises," Gillett told the newspaper on Friday.

Gillett owns 80.1 percent of the Canadiens and 50 percent of five-times European champions Liverpool.

Canadian media last week said would-be buyers were being asked to submit formal offers for the Canadiens and several groups had signed confidentiality agreements with the Bank of Montreal's investment banking arm.

Gillett declined to comment on the reports, saying the banking arm had yet to complete its work.

Stephen Darby Kops Deal

Liverpool youngster Stephen Darby is close to signing a new three-year deal at Anfield.

The 20-year-old defender has agreed personal terms on a contract but is now awaiting clarification of its length.

The club originally offered a two-year deal but it is now expected that he will commit for longer.

Fellow rookie, midfielder Jay Spearing, also 20, is also expected to sign a new Reds contract.

The duo have broken into the first team as boss Rafa Benitez is keen to blood English talent.

Sir Alex Ferguson Questions Rafael Benitez's Control Of Liverpool's Transfers

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has questioned the reasoning behind Rafael Benitez's alleged insistence that he has more control with regard to Liverpool's transfers.

It was reported that the Spaniard had asked for more responsibility in relation to the Reds' comings and goings before extending his contract at Anfield, which is something the Scot can't seem to comprehend.

"He has put himself in a powerful position; he wants control of all the transfers, for whatever reason I don't know, but that's the last thing I'd want," Ferguson told Sky Sports.

On Friday, both Ferguson and Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce criticised the former Valencia head coach for his lack of respect towards fellow managers.

When asked whether he could explain Benitez's so-called ‘contempt’, Ferguson replied, "I don't know what he does in his spare time, but he's certainly not using it the right way."